Tried and Tested – and Book Offers!

A very busy night tonight and a special post about book offers too and I will start with those I think!  Also included this week is a link to my guest spot on crime writer Val Penny’s wonderful Book Review blog.  Many thanks to her for hosting me.


Book news! I’m Bridge House Publishing/Chapeltown’s author of the week and there are free books up for grabs AND special offers on others. What’s not to like?

I’ve had the great pleasure of being published by BHP/CB in various anthologies as well as with From Light To Dark and Back Again. These form the basis of the package below.

BOOK PACKAGE: There are SIX, count them SIX, publications where I have work on offer for £4.00, all as mobi-files. This includes To Be…To Become (the Waterloo Festival competition, anthology), Baubles (BH anthology), The Best of Cafelit 4, 5 AND 6 and From Light to Dark and Back Again, my first flash fiction collection.

And for those of you who would like print paperbacks there’s an offer for you too.

PAPERBACK OFFER: My first published story was A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions. That isn’t available on Kindle BUT is in paperback and that along with From Light to Dark and Back Again is on offer at a mere £7.00 for the two!


I’m giving away one signed copy of:-

From Light to Dark and Back Again AND
Alternative Renditions OR
Baubles OR
One of the Best of Cafelit books I’m in.

First come, first served, naturally. Also one book per customer.

If you’re interested email my lovely editor, Gill James, at with your contact details. Also let her know which of the books you would like and Gill and I will take things from there. I’m looking forward to getting some books off in the post next week!

So two lucky people can be in for a free read! What are you waiting for? Gill is waiting to hear from you!

All of the above books are available on Amazon.

And if you would like to try some of my work out first, head over to Cafelit at…/l…/Allison%20Symes

Do check out the other wonderful stories here. You’re in for a great read, I promise.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Busy night tonight but fun! Hope you saw the book offer posts earlier. Meanwhile back to CFT and I’m glad to share my Tried and Tested Writing Tips this week. Hope you find it useful.

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Will be a busy day tomorrow. As well as my usual CFT post (all about tried and tested writing tips), I’m Bridge House Publishing/Chapeltown Books author of the week and will have news of book offers so stay tuned.

Re my CFT post: I’ve picked those tips I use most often and go into detail as to why they are useful.

Absolutely delighted to have been guest blogger on Val Penny‘s Book Reviews blog. Many thanks to her – it’s been a good week writing wise when it comes to getting the word out there!

And talking of words, the ones I’ve found most helpful are the ones that encourage when all that seem to come in are rejections etc. This is why you need writing friends. We know what it is like – both the joys and the down sides. It is a roller coaster ride but nobody says you have to be alone on the thing!

Am delighted to share the link to the great blog from crime writer Val Penny. The fact that I am her guest on it tonight is not at all coincidental!

Many thanks, Val, for the invite. The questions were great fun to answer. Val and I met at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School (or more accurately just outside Derby Railway Station just ahead of us both going to Swanwick!) and we’ve been great friends ever since.

It is also lovely being on the receiving end of questions too!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’m due to be Bridge House Publishing/Chapeltown Books author of the week. News of book offers tomorrow.

Getting the balance right between writing new material, revising and improving material that has not yet found a home, and marketing has never been easy to get right. Has there ever been a writer who doesn’t feel there is always something they could be doing better in any of these departments? I don’t think so!

One advantage to flash fiction of course is it can be a great way of getting work done and “out there” while working on longer projects. (And if said work is published, you’re building up your writing CV too).

What questions would you put to your characters to get the best out of them before you write their story?

One of my favourites here is “what drives you?” I use it to dig deep into a character because there will be an answer that is something nobody would mind revealing – the public face, if you like.

However, it is the answer the character (and we as individuals) try to keep to ourselves that is the really interesting one to work with! It can also reveal things about our characters that make us realise we can do so much more with them. It IS worth digging that bit deeper to get to these points.

Your stories will be deeper and have more impact as a result – even the shortest of flash fiction stories will benefit. If I know my character thinks they’re capable of, say, robbery, but I dig deeper and find in certain situations, they could kill, guess which story I’m going with!

You DO want to dump your characters right in the mire and put them under as much stress as possible and really see what they’re made of. Let the drama play out. Have fun with this, I do! (Oh and nobody said writers have to be nice to their characters, often it’s the opposite in fact!).


Many thanks to #ValPenny for hosting me on her Book Reviews blog. It was great fun answering the questions.

Questions like these are really useful for making you evaluate why you write and whether the “how” could be improved. (The answer is almost certainly “yes” to that by the way!).

Fairytales with Bite – Storytelling

Storytelling is one of our oldest traditions of course. You can understand the appeal of fairytales especially when it comes to the oral storytelling tradition. A simple plot, a structure that works, a clear goodie and baddie, and a happy ever after ending. Perfect way to end the day!

Now, of course, we expect our characters to be more nuanced. There is no such thing as the perfect hero. Villains have to have good (and understandable) reasons for acting the way they are (and that can include the fact they simply enjoy being evil. To them, that is reason enough!).

What I love about stories is that there is no one perfect format. I love books in all their forms but totally understand why audiobooks work for some, whereas the print format doesn’t. Our focus as writers is to come up with stories that can work in several formats. Our focus is to entertain. I’ve never understood why some look down on escapism. The world is sad and bad enough to make a wish to escape understandable. After all why did our cavemen ancestors tell stories? To remember what was important. To bring the community closer together. To escape the cares of their day and the ones to come for a while.

So as a writer then I want my characters to appeal to readers. I also want to drop my characters right in it whenever I can. I want my books to engage people. It’s a good thing to aim for: to improve your storytelling as much as possible. You discover better ways of expressing things, learn what works and what doesn’t. Enjoy your storytelling and relish every moment of it.


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This World and Others – Tried and Tested

My latest CFT post is Tried and Tested Writing Tips, which I hope you find useful.

How are your characters tried and tested?  Do they pass the tests you set them?  In almost any story you can think of, it is only when the characters are put right through the emotional wringer, do you see what they are capable of and where their limits are.  That is also where sidekick characters are useful – to help see your leads through to the bitter end and to get them through that “about to give it all up” moment.

Testing doesn’t need to to be overly dramatic either.  It can be as simple as a character having their patience tested by a relative who is trying to goad them (deliberately or otherwise, it’s not always consciously done).  Your character is very patient to begin with, then they become slightly less patient as time and the goading continues, and so on before they snap or do something they would not ordinarily have done.  Your character may be aware of this process so what do they do to try and fight it?  To not give in to that urge to snap no matter what the provocation?

Think about what would stress your characters out.  Think about their coping mechanisms.  What would happen if they failed or weren’t available when needed?

Have fun finding out!

My stories are in The Best of Cafelit 4, 5 and now 6 and also by Bridge House Publishing (Alternative Renditions). My first collection From Light to Dark and Back Again is published by Chapeltown Books.


Facebook – General

Am enjoying reading The Best of Cafelit 6 and looking forward to catching up with some of my fellow contributors at the Bridge House/Cafelit joint celebratory event in December. Nice mix of flash fiction and short stories. All that I’ve read so far conjure up powerful images within their first few words, a sure fire way to keep you reading. Not that I’m biased or anything… 😁😉

What do I like most about the short story (flash or longer)? I suppose it is because they are their own self-contained world. What is nice about a collection of them is you can enjoy visiting many different worlds by different writers and this is particularly good if your reading time is limited. Also, short stories are a fantastic way to try out an author’s work before going on to read their novels etc.

Keeping the short story alive is one of the great things about the independent presses. They want diverse voices. We as writers can let them have that. More short stories get out there. Okay, we still have to do the publicity but we would have to do that with a novel anyway. My own gut feel is that short stories (flash perhaps especially) can be a great way of tempting reluctant readers in so the more short stories there are out there available for people, the better.

Below are images of the books I’ve been published in to date.


My stories are in The Best of Cafelit 4, 5 and now 6 and also by Bridge House Publishing (Alternative Renditions). My first collection From Light to Dark and Back Again is published by Chapeltown Books.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

How do I like to start my flash fiction tales? Often it is with a name character carrying out some action, no matter how minor, as that immediately tells you the story is about X. (Also that the action is going to matter too, no matter how minor. Everything means something in flash fiction. There is literally no room for anything that doesn’t contribute to the story in some way).

Sometimes I go straight into my characters’ heads and show their thoughts. That will give the reader an immediate idea as to what this character is like (and from there you can make intelligent guesses as to what they might do/be capable of – for me, a lot of the fun in reading fiction by other writers is seeing if my guesses turn out to be right or not. While I’m always pleased when I guessed correctly, kudos must go to those writers who successfully wrongfoot me!).

My latest published story which is in The Best of Cafelit 6 sets a time and an immediate scene so I take the reader to where I want them to be. It also helps set the mood of the story.

So there are plenty of different ways to start your story but the common link is they are all designed to draw your reader in and keep them with you until they’ve finished reading your tale.


My latest published story is in The Best of Cafelit 6.


Love the cover for this. Image supplied by Bridge House Publishing.

My last Bridge House story is in here. Naturally I hope there will be many more to come! Image supplied by Bridge House Publishing.



Reading for Pleasure shares reasons why doing this is one of the most important things any writer can do to improve what they do.  (I think it is the most important thing).  Reading opens your mind to other worlds and so on.  What do your characters read for pleasure?  What books and stories would they choose?  Use that to explore more about them.


I share three Quick Tips which I hope you find useful.  I discuss reading your work out loud (and why it matters).  I also discuss marketing and not panicking about it – if you have a book out, you will be marketing it in different ways (without driving everyone nuts!) not just in the short term but in the long term too.  I also discuss the need to find the right balance between marketing, getting on with your writing commitments and finding time to write new work.  This last one I am struggling with at the moment but I know I will find the right key eventually.  When I do I’ll stick with it!


I didn’t get time to blog much yesterday but my current article for Chandler’s Ford Today is a review of A Comedy Trio staged by the Chameleon Theatre Group.  This consisted of three short but very funny plays, all of which I found entertaining and were excellent character studies too.  I also enjoyed playing “spot the reference” in some of them.  One of the plays in particular had a distinct nod to the Rocky Horror Picture Show!  Another had me sympathising with not just a hostage victim but the hostage taker too and yet it was funny.  Really well done by the Chameleons and some excellent writing.


Yesterday, Friday 5th May it was about my Chandler’s Ford Today post.  Today I discuss the joys of the Kindle and why I always seem to forget to take it with me when travelling because I’m too busy enjoying reading from it the night before and consequently leave it behind!  Oh, the joys of human fallibility!


I’m in Writing Magazine this month in the Members’ News Page plugging both From Light to Dark and Back Again and Baubles, the Bridge House Publishing anthology for 2016.  My short story, Helping Out, is in there. The piece looks good and thanks go to friend and fellow Swanwick devotee, Jennifer C. Wilson (author of the excellent Kindred Spirits historical ghost fiction – it’s a great mix, go and have a look!) for sharing the page all over FB!!

Always enjoy spotting a familiar face in Writing Magazine!

Image may contain: 1 person


Again I share news of the Writing Magazine spot and some images I thought appropriate to go with it (some of which appear in the book trailer).

In a separate post I discuss how I got into flash fiction in the first place.



Flash fiction should make a positive impression, no matter how brief it is!  Image via Pixabay







Books make wonderful gifts. Image via Pixabay.


Again many apologies for the no-show last night.  The bug that got me last week decided to put in a repeat appearance much to my annoyance!  Still, hopefully all gone now.


Awkward Questions can be fun to ask of yourself and your characters. In the case of the latter having someone ask them the questions that they didn’t want to be asked can be a great way of raising tension and guarantees conflict!  But the questions must be significant enough to have a real impact, the kind of impact that will turn your story on its head.  It also pays to ask yourself as a writer from time to time things like why am I writing this, is my meaning as clear as I think it is and so on.


Writing Goals discusses why I review my writing performance in the post-Christmas run-up to the New Year.  I also set some goals, some I know I won’t achieve in 12 months but I want to be well on my way to doing so in that time frame, which is the point of setting these!  Others I will achieve.  Other things happen that are unexpected bonuses.  But writing goals down is, I’ve found, a good way to ensure I’m in with a reasonable chance of achieving said goals.  I don’t really know why writing them down makes a difference.  All I know is it does and that’s enough for me.


My post this week shares the news of local YA author, Richard Hardie, whose books, Leap of Faith and Trouble with Swords, are being stocked by local independent bookshop, P&G Wells of Winchester.  It’s a real pleasure to promote a local writer and a local bookshop!


I discuss my upcoming Chandler’s Ford Today post and share a link to Southampton Writers’ Circle’s You Tube channel as they have kindly shared the Baubles trailer on this.  Thanks, everyone, and hopefully see you again in 2017.



You really do enter another world when you read.  Image via Pixabay





The wonderful world of stories... Image via Pixabay.


A mixed bag tonight – a humorous piece for Fairytales with Bite and a thoughtful reflection on the value of end of  year reviews for This World and Others.  I am also delighted to recommend, via my Facebook page, one of the most moving flash fiction collections I’ve ever read – the Great War by Dawn Knox (who is also a contributor to Baubles, this year’s anthology from Bridge House Publishing).


There have been some great (generally) unseen sales people behind some of the classic fairytales.  I suggest some of them in Great Fairytale Sales People.


One thing I do just after Christmas is to give myself an end of year review in terms of where I am at with my writing and where I would like to be.  In End of  Year Reviews, I discuss this further and share what I think are the advantages of doing this.


I was delighted to meet Dawn Knox, a fellow contributor to Baubles, at the recent Bridge House Publishing/Cafelit book launch in London.  I was even more delighted to come across her book, The Great War, which is a flash fiction collection of 100 stories, each one 100 words long.  The stories are character led (the best ones I think always are) and here are the stories of the boy who deliberately lied about his age to sign up and is about to go to Flanders, the soldiers in the trenches, the mother with her baby who doesn’t know if she’ll see her husband again amongst many others.  Very moving and if, like me, you love flash fiction and history, I’d highly recommend reading this book.

How do your characters handle matters when forced to change direction and take a path they had not expected or wanted? Image via Pixabay.

Where will your writing take you? Forward into the future or backwards in time? Image via Pixabay.

I write fairytales with bite as flash fiction and short stories in particular. Image via Pixabay.


It has been a very busy but productive week.  From going to the Bridge House/Cafelit joint book launch last Saturday to having another story, The Delivery, appearing on Alfie Dog on Monday to tonight’s labour of love which is my Chandler’s Ford Today post, it has been a good week.  (And that was despite me coming down with a bug on Wednesday night!).


Fairytale Classified Adverts shares a few examples of how I imagine these could look like.  Hope you like them.


Musical Imagery ties in with my CFT post this week but for this page, I focus on what music means to your characters, what are their important songs and so on.


I share the link with my author page here.  I now have 5 stories on Alfie Dog.  The latest, put up on Monday, is The Delivery and tells the tale of a former favoured servant of the Dark Lord who has fallen out with the boss and is now facing the consequences.  I loved writing this.  Alfie Dog charges a small fee per download and there are a wide variety of authors and genres to choose from, including yours truly.  If you love your short stories, you should check this site out (and I would say that if I wasn’t on it, honestly!  In fairness, I did check it for a long time before I submitted work here.  And naturally it took time for me to get my work to a good enough standard to be accepted so it means a lot to me to be on here.  I’m sure everyone else on here would feel similarly).


Bridge House have set up Facebook page for Baubles, this year’s anthology.  On their blog spot, they are putting up for the 24 days from the beginning of December to Christmas Eve, extracts from the 24 stories in Baubles.  I was on day 7.

And last but definitely not least:-


I loved writing the classical music greats article a little while ago but found there were so many pieces I had to leave out.  Most of these were film scores so waste not, want not – another post was born!  Tonight’s What’s Your Favourite Film Theme? My Top Ten continues my habit of having titles that tell you all you need to know (!) and I hope generates a good response as the classical music piece did.  There were a good few replies with clips of favourite classical music and I hope for a similar contribution to tonight’s post.  Contributions of your favourite film music would be very welcome!

Tonight's CFT post.  Image by Pixabay.  Editing on Pic Monkey.

Tonight’s CFT post. Image by Pixabay. Editing on Pic Monkey.







Books really are the gatekeepers BUT they can also be investigators as Westminster Bones clearly is. Image via Pixabay.


Apologies for the no-show last night.  An annoying bug caused technical problems – not with the computer but with me!!!  Technically I couldn’t have wielded a pen last night yet alone focused on a screen.  Still back to normal now…  (or what passes for normal in these parts anyway).


Helping Out is the title of my story in the Bridge House Publishing anthology Baubles.  They are sharing 24 extracts/author interviews from the 24 writers in the book for the period 1st December to 24th December.  A book-like Advent Calendar (minus the chocolate, though!).  Naturally, Murphy’s Law intervened and my slot came up yesterday and I missed it!  Still, I’ve found the link and share it on my web page here.


In Author Interviews, I share what I like about these.  My Bridge House spot included an interview section and I link to that (and my story) in This World.  It was huge fun being interviewed and I loved writing the story.  I hope that shows through.  (Generally, I think you can tell when a writer really enjoyed their work).


My next post (hopefully due to appear tomorrow night) will be my Top 10 Film Themes.  More details when up on site.


Again I discuss my story, Helping Out, and share the links with the Bridge House blog spot.

Love the cover for this. Image supplied by Bridge House Publishing.

Love the cover for this. Image supplied by Bridge House Publishing.




One of the best ways to escape is with a good book. Image via Pixabay.



The Magic of Writing shares what I love about writing and writing get-togethers such as the Bridge House Publishing/Cafelit joint book launch I went to last weekend.  It was huge fun meeting up again with some I met from last year and others who were new to me.

And we all got the chance to practice our networking skills with the speed dating exercise.  You get to chat to a writer or reader for three minutes and ask them for marketing tips (if speaking to a writer) or discuss books in general (if speaking to a reader).  Once the three minutes are up, you then talk to someone else.

The only thing I dislike about this is you inevitably stop half way through an excellent conversation and there isn’t always time to get back to it at the bar again later. However, it does get you mixing and talking and you inevitably learn something really useful.

(Baubles – the Bridge House anthology for this year – and The Best of Cafelit 5 are available in print and on Kindle and via Amazon, as well as from the publishers directly.  I have a short story, Helping Out, in Baubles and a flash fiction piece, Telling the Time, in Cafelit 5).


Writing Books shares some non-fiction how-to-write books I wouldn’t be without.  I deliberately kept this to a short list. Can you add to my list?  I wouldn’t dare list the fiction books I’d hate to part with as I’d be writing that list till Doomsday!


I discuss the joys of swimming tonight.  I always thought I would end up working out stories as I swam but it hasn’t worked out like that.  I’m more likely to do that when doing the ironing!

One of my favourite book images. They really are magical. Transportation into other worlds and around this one in a few hundred pages. Brilliant! Image via Pixabay.

One of my favourite book images. They really are magical. Transportation into other worlds and around this one in a few hundred pages. Brilliant! Image via Pixabay.






The Best of Cafelit. Image by me.



A Good Day for a Fairy Godmother lists what someone like my rebellious Eileen would consider was a “good day in the office”.  You just don’t want to be the other side of the metaphorical desk when she has a really good day…  Oh, and if you happen to be a monster or other foul fiend, you can rule out having a long life expectancy.  Her good day is your nightmare.  She prides herself on it after all.


High Days lists some of the special steps I’ve experienced as a writer.  Where you know you are going to face rejection after rejection (it is in the nature of writing), being able to have positives to refer to can help enormously.  And the nice thing is even if you are just starting out, as long as you keep going, get feedback and not be afraid to change/get rid of what’s not working in your fiction, then those positives will happen to you too.


The Writer’s Journey shares what has happened writing wise since I went to the Swanwick Summer School in August.  This period has easily been the busiest and most productive writing time I’ve known – so far anyway!  I also share a new flash fiction story, The Magician, and I suspect all pet owners will be able to identify with it.  Hope you like it.


I share news of my CFT post and look forward to the Bridge House/Cafelit joint book launch/celebration event (Baubles and The Best of Cafelit 5) in London on 3rd December.  Last year’s event was huge fun.  I love this sort of event as I get to meet new people and it is lovely talking with folk who love writing at least as much as I do.

Baubles - the new anthology by Bridge House Publishing. My story, Helping Out, is in there. 2016 has been my most successful year for acceptances to date and I hope I can build on that. Image supplied by Gill James of Bridge House Publishing.

Baubles – the new anthology by Bridge House Publishing. My story, Helping Out, is in there. 2016 has been my most successful year for acceptances to date and I hope I can build on that. Image supplied by Gill James of Bridge House Publishing.


Six of the seven books my stories have appeared in (okay in the case of Limerick Nation, one limerick!). Baubles is the other book. Image taken by me.



In Little Things, I discuss those little traits that reveal what a character is really like.  Some of these things will be unconsciously done. Others may be deliberately put on to try to reinforce what that character wants other characters to see about them.  (A kind of “building up the image” reaction).  Little things like this can back up the main portrayal of a character or flatly contradict it.  (Personally, I think the little things really do give people and characters away).


Realistic Dialogue is, for me, writing speech clearly and not necessarily as we actually speak it.  Too  many “umms” and “errs” make for a boring read.  Using slang or regional accents can be problematic.  Clarity is the most important thing of all.


Received my copies of Baubles today, this year’s anthology from Bridge House Publishing.  My story, Helping Out, is in there.  Love the cover.  Have shared the link to the Baubles Facebook page.  Am looking forward to going to the joint launch (with Cafelit) in London on Saturday.  I also have a story, Telling the Time, in this year’s The Best of Cafelit 5.

And for the Baubles book trailer:-


I discuss how long my Kindle battery lasts (!) and talk about the arrival of Baubles.  My stories have now appeared in 7 different books.  Am very pleased with that and hope to build on it.


Love the cover for this. Image supplied by Bridge House Publishing.

Love the cover for this. Image supplied by Bridge House Publishing.